On Monday, after eight years in Iran’s Evin prison, notorious for its harsh conditions, Siamak Namazi stepped into the door of a Qatar Airways plane that had just carried him to freedom and paused. He stood at the top of the steps, looked around, smiled, and waved—to no one in particular. Minutes later, he issued a statement from Doha before connecting to a flight to Washington to reunite with his family, the final leg of his journey. He said his “unspeakable joy” was mixed with a “painful and deep sense of guilt” because so many people still struggle behind Evan’s hostile walls. “All political prisoners in Iran,” he said, “should be free.”
According to Belgian government officials, at least 22 Europeans are currently detained in Iran, including an EU diplomat. The release of Namazi and four other Americans as part of a prisoner swap will almost certainly not end Iran’s more than four-decade strategy of imprisoning nearly a hundred U.S. citizens, a strategy that has culminated two years of slow diplomacy. reached the peak. “Hosage-taking keeps fanatics in power even at the cost of Iran remaining an international pariah/stink cat whose passport is worthless and whose currency is worthless,” said John Limbert, who was detained for four One of fifty-two Americans in one hundred and forty years. He told me four days after Iranian students occupied the U.S. Embassy after the 1979 revolution. The detention of foreigners is also an important tactic among rival factions within Iran.Limbert added: “As long as the superMicha The faction there (Make Iran Great Again) needs to show that it is in control and that it will continue to take actions – such as taking hostages – to discredit its political opponents, regardless of the associated costs. ” In 1979, one of Limbert’s kidnappers told him: “This is not about you; “This has nothing to do with the King; this has nothing to do with America, this has to do with us. We still have our inner fish to fry.”
Namazi, a former fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, was the longest-incarcerated of the five Americans released on Monday. In 2015, he was detained while visiting his parents in Tehran and accused of collaborating with an enemy state. In an effort to put pressure on Washington, Iranian intelligence services later arrested several Americans, including Namazi’s father, Baquer. unicef Official.
Iranian officials have refused to talk to their American counterparts since the Trump administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018. The Trump administration also imposed more than 1,500 new sanctions on Iran to squeeze its economy. Last October, Iran allowed Bakr Namazi to leave the country to receive emergency medical care. Diplomatic momentum picked up in the spring, with nine rounds of awkward diplomacy reportedly conducted through third parties, mainly Qatar and Oman. In tiny Doha, Qatari officials shuttled between American and Iranian delegations staying in different hotels.
Two other Americans released by Iran on Monday were Morad Tahbaz and Emad Shargi. Sentenced to ten years in prison on espionage charges in 2020; two others released in the deal declined to be named.
The terms of the deal drew criticism even before Monday morning’s trading. In exchange for the five Americans, the United States released five Iranians, four of whom were detained on suspicion of violating sanctions by possessing materiel that could be used for military purposes and one on suspicion of failing to register as a foreign agent of the Islamic Republic. people were detained. Only two wanted to return to Iran. Iran’s Foreign Ministry acknowledged on Monday that two of them would rather stay in the United States. Another person will be reunited with relatives in a third country.
The most controversial part of the deal is the Biden administration’s agreement to issue a waiver so that South Korea can transfer $6 billion in frozen assets it owes Iran for past oil purchases. Terms stipulate that the funds will be deposited into a restricted account permanently controlled by Qatar, which will oversee and disburse Iran’s designated humanitarian procurement of supplies, such as food, medical care, education and agricultural products. (Iran has imported hundreds of thousands of dollars of bull semen from the U.S. over the years to feed its dairy cows.) A senior U.S. official told reporters on Sunday that no money would be coming to Iran. “This channel is explicitly designed to prevent money laundering, abuse of Asian and U.S. sanctions,” he said. “If Iran attempts to divert funds or use them for any purpose other than authorized limited humanitarian purposes, we will take action Lock up funds.” The U.S. Treasury Department will also oversee all designated purchases by Iran. It expects the funds to be used over several years, rather than all at once.
Both Republican and Democratic presidents have conducted prisoner or hostage exchanges in the past, but Republicans have condemned the terms of the deal with Iran. Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz called the $6 billion a “ransom.” Others charge that Iran will be able to free up $6 billion needed for humanitarian purchases and use it for military or other nefarious purposes. “Iran’s leaders will take the money and run away,” said Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas. wrote on social media last week. “What the hell does Joe Biden think is going to happen?” On Monday, he added, “Two of the five Iranians released as part of this terrible deal will remain in the United States. Joe Biden is an embarrassment “Our appeasement policy not only makes Iran stronger, it also makes the United States less safe.” South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune said on Facebook that he supports efforts to bring Americans detained abroad. , “But Iran will now count the ransom, allowing its leaders to better develop nuclear weapons and finance terrorists. The price of releasing the American hostages will only be higher.”
On Monday, the White House announced a new round of sanctions against former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s intelligence ministry for their past involvement in the wrongful detention of Americans. The Biden administration hopes the exchange will open opportunities for other diplomacy with Iran, particularly regarding Iran’s increasingly advanced nuclear program. Tehran has now enriched uranium to more than 60 percent, which could fuel up to three nuclear weapons if it made the political decision to build a bomb, said Kelsey Davenport, director of nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association. . Washington officials have also long wanted to engage Iran on regional issues, such as its proxy attacks on Americans in the Middle East and the war in Yemen between rival factions backed by Iran and Saudi Arabia. The United States has even less room to maneuver on these issues when Americans are imprisoned in Iran. So exchange is the first step. But this is a very small step. ❖